Last week, we talked about “Eating for General Health & Fitness” and “Eating for Weight Loss.” This week, we are looking at the tricky one and how we normal folks can take from this:
The UGLY: Eating for Sports Performance
If you are training regularly for a high-level athletic event, such as a marathon, a tennis match, or a football game, it takes the planning up a notch.
The healthy eating principle still stands, so build your meals around wholegrain, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and good fat.
For strength and endurance athletes, the overall need for protein increases for optimal performance and repair. Instead of the usual recommended 0.8-1 g protein/kg body weight/day, you are looking at 1.2-2g per day.
The same clay pot rice mentioned in our last article will give you about 28g of protein. Here are a few more examples:
- One hard-boiled egg: 6.5g protein
- One piece of egg prata: 13.5g protein
- One serving of nasi lemak with chicken wing: 26g protein
- One serving of chicken rice with roasted chicken: 26.5 protein
- One serving of spinach with trio egg: 28g protein
What you get in total also depends on other ingredients on the plate: chicken rice comes with more carbohydrates, and with spinach and egg come fiber and other nutrients.
One week before the event, you may want to consider carb-loading. Consuming a high carbohydrate diet leading up to the event will increase your glycogen stores to better support your needs during the activity.
A good pre-workout meal should consist of high carbohydrates with some protein and fat, eaten 2~3 hours before. This combination will help deliver sustained energy throughout the workout. Some light carbohydrate snacks such as a banana 30 minutes may also offer an extra boost if you need to.
If you are doing a long run, bodybuilding or a full day of tennis games, water and small snacks such a banana, dried fruits, fruit juice, or a handful of nuts along the way may help you going.
Depending on what you are training for and the intensity of the training, supplementing may be needed, but that’s a topic for another day.
Now for us commoners who exercise 1-3 times per week for good health, it is unlikely that you need to increase your food intake or to snack during your workout.
Here are some tips to help you start planning, whether you are a weekend gym-goer or training for a big game:
Be careful of grab-and-go pre-exercise snacks; many of these are loaded with sugar, which may send you on a blood sugar roller coaster and dampen your performance.
Foods high in fiber, protein, and fat will also not be your friend in a pre-workout meal or snack. They take longer to digest and affect how your body needs to work.
Follow the 3M’s and adapt according to your needs:
1. Make Your Calories Count
You want to make you are getting the most you can from the calories consumed and not the other way around:
- Always get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day.
- Make complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain and starchy root vegetables like sweet potato, yam, pumpkin your primary source of carbohydrates. Legumes, which include beans, peas, lentils, are good sources of both protein and carbohydrates.
2. Make It Easy for Yourself
- Read nutrition labels whenever possible to understand what you are eating.
- Ensure you have easy access to your chosen foods: seek out where you can purchase, prepare them in advance, have them readily available at home or your workplace.
3. Make the Most of Your Training
- Your post-work meal should include quality proteins such as beans, lean meat, nuts to help with tissue repairs.
-Stay hydrated, whether it’s 40 minutes at the gym or 2 hours in the park, particularly in Singapore’s climate.
Lastly, understand that all the above are very general guidelines that apply to most healthy adults. Your individual needs will vary based on gender, age, stress, health condition, hormones, and lifestyle.
To truly understand your needs, it would be best to consult your doctor, a sports doctor, or a dietitian.